Monthly Archives: January 2013

Day 3 28th March – Kao San Road

Cat and Suzanne took quite a long time to get ready and by the time we got to Kao San Road it was already the afternoon.  After feeling like we were the only Westerners in Bangkok we were suddenly surrounded by them. The street was lined with tourist shops and food stalls. There were also dozens of tuk tuk drivers. There must be thousands of them across the city! What we didn’t realise was March is a rather busy time for Thailand so there weren’t many hostels that were free. With the sweat pouring down we went for the first place we could find. In our room the air con only seemed to reach Cat – there was certainly no view in this place and it was a stark contrast to the Asia Hotel. The loo had no flush – only a small shower head to…  well you know. We spent the rest of the day wandering around Kao San – it was even livelier at night with street hawkers trying to sell you anything from necklaces to bootleg CDs. For dinner I tried cream of chicken soup – there was no cream and basically just lumps of chicken floating in boiled oily water…. yummy!

Day 2 27 March Time to explore Bangkok pt 2

So after finding the river terminal we looked for a boat – the first tour guide offered us a ride for about 300 baht but we noticed a local ferry only charging 8 baht – just shows never take thr first offer or be pressured into anything. We got off at Tho Tien and walked to Wat Po. Here we a friendly lecturer from the main uni. ‘So how dyu 40 degree heat and 100% humidity?’ he asked grinning. We said it was fine and after chatting a while he offered us a tour of the city for 30 baht. Is everyone in Bangkok a tour guide?! But we thought what the hell – this was before the film Hostel was made…

Our first stop was the Golden Mount – a huge chedi at the top of a hill. From the top we had magnificent views of the sprawling mass known as Bangkok. It seems inconceivable that they could build something of this size so high up. Back at the bottom a tuk tuk driver took us to Wat Saket. If you hadn’t guessed by now Wat means temple 🙂 This particular temple was filled with golden statues of Buddha in different poses. In the central temple we had to take our shoes off. The walls were decorated with murals and depictions of Buddha. In one corner a man was painstakingly restoring some of the paintwork.

After having a good look around we went back to the driver who drove us to a place where you could buy tailor made suits very cheaply. We had been warned about these places – its a bit of a con and the suits aren’t always the best quality. Many backpackers feel obliged to buy a suit. But seriously why would I want to carry a suit in my backpack for the next 12 months! So we politely said no thanks – there was no pressure on us at all to buy anything.

We then went back to the hotel via the tuk tuk and ferry. Tomorrow we would finally make our way to Kao San Road – the main backpacking drag in the city. Goodbye air conditioned hotel!!

First time backpacker? Not sure how to begin?

These were the first two questions I had to think about. It’s not easy planning when you’re nor entirely sure what you’re planning and of course there’s the risk of over-planning….. after all half the fun is not knowing how its all going to pan out. So here’s some tips to get you started:

  • Time – how long are you going away for? 1 month, 3 months, 12 months? You may find this changes as you travel – you might get homesick and want to cut it short or stay longer because you get attached to a certain place. But whichever you do need a rough idea
  • Where – which places do you want to visit? This can be tricky. The temptation is to go and see everywhere and as much as possible within the time you  have. Be careful though as the more flights you add the more it will cost and the more time will be spent on a coach or plane rather than actually exploring an area. Backpacking is different to each person but I felt the bedt memories were from areas I got to know really well and appreciate the culture rather than your typical sightseeing coach tours
  • Money – THE most important thing of all … sadly. Travelling doesn’t need to be costly but you need a rough idea of what your daily budget is. When you know where you’re going and how long for you can work out how much it is going to cost. Ilived on £12 a day …. for everything. It was tight and just not possible in America. I would say £20-30 daily budget. Now multiply that by the number of days you’re roughly going for.
  • Solo or with friends? There are advantages to both. It’s safer to travel with friends but you have to compromise, they may have a different budget and may want different things out of the trip. It is important that you talk about what you want to get out of the trip at a very early stage. If going solo make sure you have a cheap backup phone for extra security.
  • Saving up  – well this is the thing that caught me out!! After Uni I decided to go travelling with a couple of mates …. little did I realise it would take me 8 months to save up for the flight, all my stuff and the traveling itself. Be prepared to save up and make sacrifices – yes that means going out less, less drunken nights etc otherwise you’ll end up taking years rathet than months to save up. Luckily I got my parents to let me stay at theirs rent free for those 8 months. Thanx Mum and Dad XD
  • What do you actually want to do – I don’t mean being too specific but just an inkling of why you want to travel … is it to go clubbing and nights out, volunteering, exploring different cultures, seeing wildlife and mountains etc. Maybe its a bit of all of these but every country will offer you different things. And if you want to earn money while travelling this is definitely easier in some countries others and often you’ll need to apply for a working visa which can take several weeks to come through
  • Valid passport – if its ending soon be very clear how long you’re going for – the last thing you want is to be stuck in a foreign country without a valid passport
  • Get a notepad – go through this checklist in a new notepad exclusively for your travelling. Don’t write numbers or contacts on scraps of paper – if you have it all in one place things will be so much easier!
  • Be realistic – thinking about travelling can be daunting and exciting but just be honest about how much you can save up and what you can do in the time you have. Getting from A to B may look easy on the map but on the ground anything could happen so allow a bit extra time
  • Chill out it will be awesome! Yes there are a lot of things to bear in mind and the saving up can be tedious but let’s face it would you rather be stuck in an office somewhere or out there meeting new people, discovering other countries and discovering more about yourself?
  • Good luck! Any questions just ask 🙂

 

Day 2 27th March Time to Explore Bangkok Pt 1

Ferry to Wat Po

After a full breakfast of eggs and bacon we finally left the hotel.  The first thing that hit me was the humidity – from the coolness of the hotel it was like hitting a brick wall.  My older brother gave me a bit of advice about the heat – he said just accept it.  If you go around complaining about it the heat will get to you and you won’t enjoy yourself.  Just drink plenty of water.  So that’s what I tried to do for the next 3 months in South East Asia.
 
We found the city’s monorail and got on board and from there our aim was to get a ferry and explore some of the city’s temples.  It was clean and air conditioned – almost too nice to get off.  We made it to our first destination – a place called Saphan Taksin but didn’t know how to get to the ferry stop. Again our map was found wanting.  Once we had worked out which side of the river we were on – always a good start – we tried to take a short cut down a rather scruffy road.  It came to a dead end – all eyes were on us as we walked back.  This street was terribly dirty with numerous broken down cars.  One had no wheels and was literally crammed full of rubbish. 
 

Day 1 Arriving in Bangkok 27th March part 2

And so we travelled through the crowded polluted streets of Bangkok with tuk tuks and motorbikes weaving in and out as if we were in some giant moto grand prix.  The buildings were mostly concrete and uninspiring so when we finally got to our hotel it seemed like paradise.  A smart porter dressed in a red suit complete with cap and gold buttons took our things and escorted us to reception.  We remeembered to tip him as our guide book said.  Tipping is big over here.  After checking in we helped ourselves to a free cup of tea while I asked the waitress what the Thai word for thank you was – ‘kar koon kap’ (ka at end for women).  She seemed deighted that I asked!  The first thing I noticed in the hotel was a strange smell in the air – its difficult to describe but it was a kind of tropical heat smell – musty and humid.  Cat said she’d experienced something similar in Egypt. 
 
Our room was a welcome relief – cooled from the air conditioning and spacious.  By the end of the day the room was a tangle of clothes lines full of knickers and bras.  We just stayed in our room that night not wanting to venture out – we were all a bit scared I guess.  I mean – just what were we going to do with all this time.  12 months.  £5,000 each.  It was almost too much to take in.  Later on we ventured down to the restaurant and had fried chicken – not very adventurous I know – gentle steps!!  But the service was amazing – everyone was waiting on us and took our plates as soon as we had finished.  Everyone smiled as well and seemed really friendly.  Was this just the hotel or was all Bangkok like this – we’d find out soon enough. 
 
We wandered back to our lovely cool room.  I slept very well unlike Cat who didn’t sleep at all – she was worried it would always be like this.  Both Suzanne and Cat were already very homesick but I was feeling fine. So now it was just a case of getting out of our hotel and actually see what Bangkok had to offer…. easy peasy … ?

Day 1 Arriving in Bangkok … part 1

Thailand is 6 hours ahead of London but it was only 5am when we arrived but surprisingly not that tired.  When I say we, there was me and two of my uni mates Suzanne and Cat.  Once off the plane we didn’t really have a clue where to go next or what to do.  The furthest I’d been from home before was Corfu with my parents!  We had a hotel pre-booked but Bangkok was miles away from the airport.  We could of course get the limousine advertised in the foyer but I felt that was kinda cheating.  Our first attempt saw us walking outside in the darkness of Thailands streets – unbearably humid after the coolness of the plane.  We soon changed our minds and located the train station. 

By this stage it had magically gone light and we boarded a train we hoped was taking us to the big smoke for about 35p.  The first thing I noticed was we were the only white people on the train and we got more than a few stares.  I guess most backpackers took the limousine after all!  Everyone was very quiet but then it was only 6am.  Outside I could see the lush vegetation of the countryside – banana plants, coconut palms, tropical flowers all scrambling amongst the corrupted iron huts running along the roadside.  There was also a heavily polluted stream that divided the railside from various villages and houses. 

After about an hour we made it to Bangkok’s main station.  It was chaos with all the hustle and bustle you’d expect at a busy terminal.  What we didn’t appreciate at this stage was that we were still nowhere near our hotel!  So we sat at one of the entrances and tried to gather our thoughts.  A bus seemed the best option but everytime we tried to get on it was full.  Don’t forget we were each weighed down with a backpack, daypack and now a litre of water.  The map in our guide books was also pretty useless – after taking the really stupid option of walking to our hotel we realised that the map only showed the main streets.  With our bags weighing a ton and the sun starting to take its effects a ‘tuk tuk’ pulled up beside us. 
The girls were very reluctant to get in.  I didn’t think we had much choice – hot sweaty and just a tad lost under some unknown bridge I thought it was worth the risk.  So in we squeezed and had our first authentic experience of riding through Bangkoks streets.  It was mad flying through the streets running neck to neck with buses and smokey vehicles down 5 lanes of traffic. Who needs a limousine!! It was at this point we realised just how far we’d have to walk.

And so our journey had begun …

let’s get it started!

OK so this is my first ever blog but we’ve all gotta start somewhere! Im kinda excited in a way as I’m finally going to have the chance to share my diary and travelling advice…. for what its worth …. with, well everyone!

I  just hope you share my sense of humour and passion for travelling. The other thing I want to do is help anyone new to the whole backpacking idea and how to get the best out of your trip without spending a fortune. So look out for tips and ideas as  shoestring  develops.

Oh and if you have any burning questions about travelling just ask!

Shoestring Tom

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